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Travel bookings have ‘changed dramatically over the last week:’ Zeta Global CEO

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Alexis Keenan discuss holiday travel predictions and the impact of COVID-19 on airport foot traffic with David A. Steinberg, Zeta Global’s founder & CEO.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Joining us now is David Steinberg, founder and CEO of Zeta Global. We're also joined by Yahoo Finance's Alexis Keenan. Thanks to you both for being here. So David, what are you seeing right now in terms of air travel and hotel bookings as we move closer to the Thanksgiving holiday?

DAVID A. STEINBERG: You know, as you would expect, Alexis, the news is not good, right? We're seeing across the board where we were starting to see recoveries in both foot traffic and airports, bookings of tickets, and traffic on websites associated with research travel and research booking. All of those have changed course pretty radically over the last week. And we're seeing things now really not just down from what was starting to be a bit of a recovery, but down from what was even a few weeks ago.

ALEXIS KEENAN: David, Alexis here, Alexis Keenan, that is. I want to ask you about some of the numbers that you shared with us and that we'll show our viewers. You have tracked the airport traffic from October all the way through the current time. And it shows that it's down year-over-year, overall 57% to 63%. And then some breakdowns with the Northeast having many-- much less traffic, that is, compared to the West and Southeast and the Midwest and the Southwest.

Also, some recent activity that you were just talking about, showing 7% to 15% down just over the last few weeks. And also, comparing that to what TSA is anticipating, CBS says that TSA is planning for 6 million travelers over the week of Thanksgiving. And if we just look at last year at the same exact time, they had 26 million travelers. So compared to your data and what they're planning for, are they on target for the right number, or is that overdoing it?

DAVID A. STEINBERG: Well, I would say that, you know, there's not going to be long wait times this year, you know, as it relates to travel, which is sort of one perk. But no, as I think you so eloquently pointed out, we're seeing across-the-board cuts. The deepest is in the Northeast foot traffic in an airport-- in airports, down 80% year-over-year. You know, the least shrinkage is in the Southeast, which is about 68%.

And as we said, these were all starting to recover a few weeks ago. We're now seeing these come down fairly dramatically. You know, I think TSA is doing the best they can to try to estimate what's going to be there, but I think that if we had almost 30 million travelers last year over Thanksgiving, my guess is we're going to see a minimum of a 70% to 80% shrinkage this year.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Wow. David, do you think that one of the beneficiaries here could be the car rental companies? Because people who are going to take trips, they're going to be shorter. Local trips, they can drive to, and they're going to want to do it in their own sort of sealed in environment, if you will.

DAVID A. STEINBERG: Yeah, great question, Alexis C. I think that the real-- you know, the guys who were going to lose less, I hate to use the term winner around travel, hospitality, or entertainment, in today's world. I mean, that's a vertical that is just really getting hammered is car rental companies. The other sort of good news is we're starting to see a moderate uptick in the research site traffic around luxury hotels.

And that is then relating to people going to the booking sites that are going to luxury hotels, which I think is dead on for your point. I think there are people who just want to get away. I think they're going to rent a car, I think they're going to go to properties that are within 50 miles of where they live. And I think they're going to check into more luxury properties. A, because they're probably not traveling as much, so they have a little more travel budget there.

And B, I think there's a real perception on what we're seeing that luxury properties are going to be cleaner and safer. I'm not suggesting that to be the case, I'm simply saying I think that's the perception of that. And I think we'll see a faster rebound in rental cars absolutely, especially in major cities where people are trying to sort of get away from there, and more luxury hotel properties.

ALEXIS KEENAN: David, quickly, American Hotel and Lodging Association, they say that, according to their research, 70% of Americans say they're not going to travel at all. Does that match what your data shows?

DAVID A. STEINBERG: It does, but, you know, if you're looking at 70% not traveling and we're looking at 80% to 90% decreases in airports, it does sort of bode well that the sort of one pocket of potential opportunity would be close. For example, I would not want to own a luxury travel property on an island right now, right? I mean, I'd want to be sort of within a range of a large metropolitan service area where people are trying to feel, like, some level of normalcy.

And back to the last segment, whether people are going to be 10 people, 15 people, 20 people, I do think the perception is that people are going to have smaller Thanksgivings. You know, one of the funny statistics we were looking at was the downgrading of sales of turkeys above 20 pounds, right? So you could start to look at those types of things. I do think people are going to stay in hotels.

You know, I was sort of joking with my wife, I'm sort of glad we're only going to have 10 people this year, less, sort of, fighting with the political climate. But in all seriousness, I think that we're going to see hotels and rental car companies have less shrinkage, airlines have more shrinkage. And I think they're going to continue to be challenged until we can sort of get back to some level of normalcy.